Esmeraldes and Atacames – the north coast of Ecuador

Day two of our trip to the coast saw us travelling down Hwy 15, Ecuador’s equivalent to Hwy 101 down the west coast of the US.  We crossed a few rivers, passed through many small, very poor communities and eventually ended up in downtown Esmeraldes when we really wanted to go to Atacames.


Because we didn’t have a complete map, we ended up in the very centre of the city, instead of passing around the city.  Signage was very poor.  The city itself seemed very dirty, dusty, and in definite need of some street maintenance.  Even the stop lights either did not work, or the red, amber and green bulbs were burned out.  Traffic was horrible!  We eventually found the main highway after driving through a heavily industrialized area with oil refineries and power stations.  We didn’t bother to take many photos.

Once out of town, we continued south towards Atacames, a large, busy beach resort town.  We found a small chicken place and stopped for lunch, not knowing that the beach malecon was just a short block away….The food was good – more shrimp and rice!

We finally ended up on the beach and found a nearby parking spot and headed out to explore.  The beach was very busy, very clean, with a ton of restaurants lining the waterfront.  There were two large ‘ceviche’ markets where there seemed to be a competition between all the cubicles inside, each trying to outdo the others by grabbing your attention and urging you to buy their food.

After a short exploratory walk along the Malecon, we headed back to the car and took the proper route back to Las Penas, missing the messy city of Esmeraldes.

We arrived back in Las Penas in the late afternoon to find the tide was out a bit further and it was shaping up to be a beautiful sunset.  We stopped in at one of the restaurants for a nice dinner – more shrimp!  Thanks to a friendly group from Quito, one of whom spoke good English, we were actually able to order something a bit different, and a couple of margaritas!  Giselle had some more shrimp ceviche, her favourite, and I ordered a mix of seafood in a coconut sauce.  Both were very good.